Power of Small by Aisling and Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin Interview

by | Jul 28, 2020 | Podcast 1, Podcast | 0 comments

Making tiny changes when everything feels too much

New book release day for The Power of Small: Making Tiny Changes When Everything Feels Too Much is perfect for our endless lockdown lives! I had the pleasure of speaking with Aisling and Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin on the release of their new book and how to make sense of our current sense of overwhelm. 



Leann 0:01
Welcome to the latest episode of shelf aware books podcast and today, I have the pleasure of speaking with two authors of one of the best books that I have read in a long time, the power of small today, we’re going to talk about To ashling Leonard curtain and Dr. Trish Leonard curtain Ashlyn is a chartered psychologist, international speaker, trainer and author. She is also a peer reviewed acceptance and Commitment Therapy trainer and a functional analytic psychotherapy trainer. She’s also the CO director of the act now purposeful living, and she’s been at the forefront of spreading evidence based skills to the general public and those within mental health settings over the past 10 years. Dr. Tricia Leonard curtain is a psychologist, trainer and lecturer, having struggled with mental health challenges in our own life, including inpatient admissions and psychiatric care. Trish retrained as a psychologist, she’s co author of act now purposeful living, and Trish has extensive experience of working with trauma and psychological distress in adolescents and adults across a broad range of settings. So welcome both of you.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 1:59
Thank you, Leann

Leann 2:02
Well, today we are talking about your book, The Power of small, which is coming out in the United States on July 28 2020. So you were doing a book launch in the middle of a pandemic, congratulations. And I’m sorry.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 2:22
It was originally meant to be launched in the US and Canada and in May and it was decided that that probably was even crazier time from a pandemic perspective than it is now. Although that’s, I don’t know if that’s actually the case, or that was the thinking behind it anyways, to wait until now.

Leann 2:39
Well, based on the book sales that I saw, it’s probably a really good idea. So I’m very glad to be able to get to talk to both of you and pick your brains about your book. So when I haven’t read it in the older version, I don’t remember how I got it. If it’s just been launched in the US now but I really enjoyed it a few years ago, tell me a little bit about it. When you start the book, you start talking about the power of small and small basics. Tell me where you get the idea of breaking all this down and why you wanted to approach a book. Going from that smaller bite perspective.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 3:20
I think really, a lot of this came from our practice as a psychologist and what we were seeing again and again and again, with our clients. And with those we were kind of seeing in groups and in workshops, and also to be completely honest, it was what we saw on ourselves, as well as that the natural tendency is to want to start off all guns blazing, and try and change everything all at once and make these really radical, massive changes. And it all seemed very good in theory, however, the practice usually fell short. And what often happens is one of two things people either started off, all guns blazing, and then kind of crashed and burned relatively quickly, or people were so overwhelmed that they didn’t We’re starting the first place. So that was what kind of gave us rise to the power of small and before that we have this concept on five minute breakouts where I’m breaking out of your comfort zone for five minutes every day. And we’re finding that people do seem to be more able to break out of their comfort zone and to make changes when it was very small and incremental, and it was more easily sustained for people.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 4:23
I think what we noticed, too, that and I think particularly that at the moment is there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unpredictability. And when we get to lashes that there’s something wrong in our lives, per se, or something that we need to change, our emotions can kind of there our alarm systems, and they, they just they change. We don’t like to feel that uncertainty and we don’t really like to tolerate kind of not knowing what’s going to happen. So sometimes when we’re overwhelmed by these really powerful emotions that tell us we need to change or that we need something We can just jump into doing something from an emotion. And that’s not always the most effective choice to make, or it’s not the most unhelpful steps, it’s more about, I just need to get this emotion stuff, or I just need to not feel this way anymore. So a lot of the skills that we go through in the book are helping people to stem back from that really kind of emotional drive system and take the space to, you know, figure out kind of, is this what I really want? Or am I just doing this because I want to make changes and I just don’t want to feel bad anymore. And so what we notice is when people start taking that space, then just a step a step back, and sometimes that can be just a tiny bit of space, from our thoughts or emotions, then they start to become a lot more aware of what’s really important to them in their hearts. And so that’s a journey that we will take people on their work to

Leann 5:59
do From that tiny space and making space, the philosophy behind the book is from acceptance and Commitment Therapy or act. And you stayed in the beginning that we can really suffer and struggle when we’re psychologically inflexible. Talk to me about how you define psychological flexibility.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 6:20
So when we’re looking at psychological flexibility and flexibility, we’re kind of looking at it across three main domains. And I suppose the important thing to say here is that there isn’t any one of us trician, myself included, that’s 100% psychologically flexible, noise or somebody who’s 100%, psychologically inflexible, honestly, and you were the first person we’ve come into contact with with 100% psychological flexibility. So far,

we haven’t met that person

will kind of come to that, but I think so the aim here is that it’s not to become 100% psychological, be flexible, but that this is on a spectrum and that also So we can be more or less flexible in different areas of our life. And then it’s useful to see where are we being psychologically inflexible. So just like, if we’re physically inflexible, we can do things to build up our physical flexibility through yoga, stretching polities eating certain foods, eating less of other foods, that there tend to be the foods that I crave. And you know, so those things can increase our physical flexibility. But so too, can we increase our psychological flexibility? So when we’re in a flexible, it’s when we’re kind of mainly living in the past or the future, either rehashing things that have gone by in the past are constantly in this water? What if this What if that what if the other so that’s when we’re in that more inflexible space and to become more psychologically flexible, it’s when we’re more connected and grounded in the present moment. We’re more connected and grounded to ourselves and also to others when we’re communicating or relating to them in the present moment. The second aspect is when we’re flexible is when work either putting a lot of time and energy in trying to push down control minimize certain unwanted thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations. And thoughts are putting a lot of time and energy into not thinking and not feeling. And consequently what we know from the research is that the more time and energy I put into trying not to think and feel certain things, the more I end up thinking, The very thought that I don’t want to think and the feeling the very emotion that I don’t want to feel. And this has been shown through research that the more time we put in trying to suppress our thoughts and emotions, the more likely we are to struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, addictions, kind of across the gamut really. So then the kind of counterpart to that the more psychologically flexible piece is, can I be open to engaging in new experiences, and to try new things that are in line with my values, even though this may bring off someone wants to call or emotions or bodily sensations for me and then the final part of the kind of the Psychological inflexibility to flexibility is that we’re kind of just going about our life day to day and we’re kind of on autopilot, we’re not really paying attention to what we’re doing not doing. It becomes more about damage limitation and not wanting to feel things rather than things that are truly in line with our bodies as things that matter to us, and then move into a place and I think Trish made reference to that beautifully just a few moments ago of being more intentional about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. So, you know, running a marathon might not be a volleys guided move for many people, particularly if they’ve got like, problems with their knees or something like that. So not just doing something because we’ve seen it in the magazine or because we think that’s going to make us be more attractive or more lovable or something like that to actually tune in to Well, what is important to me, what do I want my life to be about and having these values and embedded in the small actions and inactions that we engage on a daily basis?

Leann 10:01
How do I know if I’m psychologically inflexible? How do I know if I’m at the critical limit of inflexibility and I’m about to break? What kind of things would I be saying or thinking? In other words, how do I know if I really, really need your book?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 10:16
Probably the thoughts are gonna be something like, you know, this is just so overwhelming. What’s the point any of this just feels like a groundhog day. And that when you’re in conversation with other people, you’re not even really hearing what they’re saying. Because you’re kind of thinking about, well, you know, like you’re in compare bear mode, you’re comparing yourself to them, you’re kind of constantly they seem to be making more of their life than I’m making of my life or life seems to be easier for them than it is than it is for me. I seem to be really struggling on a day to day basis, or just this kind of feeling of monogamy and just there’s so many different ways. So it’s not like it’s the same for everyone, but I’m just trying to think of some of the most main ways that people kind of come to the moment it can be that monotony that feeling of being constantly overwhelmed, like going to bed at night and feeling so exhausted, but not being able to sleep because the mind is still kind of flying ahead around. I should have done this I should have done I should have done the other thing. I heard a great comment at the the act World Conference last week, you’re shooting all over yourself, you know, so when you’re shooting all over yourself, that’s a sign that you’re probably and then the flexibility piece. And I suppose just the thing I’d really like to say that if people are listening, they’re saying, Oh my gosh, that is me. I would just like to say I have been in that place too. I know Trisha has been in that place, too. We speak very loudly about the fact I’ve struggled with anxiety in my own life. Trish has struggled with depression and is that piece where it feels like our life is kind of coming in on us. And it feels like we’re not really proud of the life that we’re living. It feels like we could be living more and it’s just like it’s a constant weight on the shoulders and it feels like that weight is getting more and more intense and the more we look left Rice, the more we feel like we’re just falling short again and again and again. And we’re kind of constantly wanting to start things talking about, you know, how we’re going to change how we exercise, how we’re going to change our job, but it’s always something for tomorrow, and then it’s tomorrow and tomorrow, and then it doesn’t calm or you kind of start making changes. And it just feels so hard to sustain them. But it’s usually the point at which people are kind of feeling like, okay, I might need a little bit of help here. And that was really our aim with the power of small was to have really a compassionate guide that could be a companion. And I’m curious, because I know Leann, you managed to get your hands on the bulk window was mainly available over in Europe, and I know you might be one of the people before people needed to wait, I think three months to get it over to the US. So we’re excited that people won’t need to wait three months because possibly the reasons that they got the book in the first place may have changed. I’m curious from your perspective, what did it help you?

Leann 12:53
For me, I’m really appreciated the fact that it was, as I call it, a bathroom read, which is not offensive like this is praise in my mind, because you have each chapter is very, very small. You have a broken down in four different parts. You even include the recommendation of using a notebook or journal, which I love. Because if you just read a book and don’t reflect on it and don’t inquiry and really think through it and possibly even journal about it, I find that those messages don’t stick and they don’t take time. So you do all the things in a book that I want you to do you break it down so that I could read it within just a couple of minutes and feel like Oh, yes, I’m human. I’m normal. They know exactly what I’m going through something as a prompt for in the morning or in the evening when you’re closing out your day. I find that really helpful. I have a thing I call the tomorrow morning test. I read a book and I don’t know what to do differently the in tomorrow morning. doesn’t go as high up on the list. So I think one of the reasons I was really attracted to talk to you guys is because the power of small during COVID is what a lot of the people that I talked to in myself really need. We can’t handle a big, thick, long, you know, dissertation on how to feel better right now. And to your point earlier, you’re reassuring everyone in validating everyone that the emotions that we’re having, even if they feel bad or ugly, yes, we can avoid and watch Netflix for a while. But eventually we do need to come back and address them and your book gives practical tools on that.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 14:45
The and the only hidden important point about you know, the way the book is ideally read reflects the power of small ideology itself. It’s like, I’m guilty of this too. I can pick up a book and I can just fly through In a day or two, but what really, really helps things stick for me is we always encourage people, you know, if it takes you twice as long, if it takes you four times as long to read the book, The important thing is that you’re doing. So you’re actually practicing and doing the small steps in between. And because because if you’re not actually out there doing like you, if you were to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just read books on running America and expect to go out there and win 26 miles. The real essence is and when you actually go out into the real world, I’m puppy skills to practice. That’s a really important point. And I just wants to come back also to something that Ashley was saying. And she mentioned the, you know, that one of the indicators of the inflexibility is we’re lashing you so that was struggle. It’s one thing start to feel like a real slog. And we have a lot going on at the moment ash thing and I and it’s the day That I find most difficult are the days when I’m struggling against change. I’m really resistance. I’m resentful. I don’t want this. And so those days are the days that I know that I need to work on acceptance and making more room for the things that I might necessarily want. I didn’t ask for them, but they’re here on how best Can I have I’m build a flexibility in that openness to deal with them. And I find that when I can do that, it may be exactly the same list of problems that’s facing me but on a day when I can kind of foster acceptance, rather than really going into that. No, no, it shouldn’t be like this. That makes all the difference for me, even though the problems on paper are exactly the same.

Leann 16:50
I think that brings up one of your aspects you talked about in the book, being in your comfort zone, self care zone and then pushing yourself Just slightly out of those zones. Talk to me a little bit about that balance that you are trying to get across to readers about the difference or that dance between self care but pushing comfort in and how do you not find yourself in one camp or the other all the time?

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 17:18
Yeah, jobs. It’s a bit of a jig.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 17:22
I think this is it because you know, if we’re going to stay in our comfort zones the entire time and would you know, nothing’s going to change and I love that barometer that you have, it’s the tomorrow morning test,you know, around, like, Am I gonna have something different tomorrow morning than I do today. So obviously, people read the power smile and they stay in their comfort zones. You know, that’s not going to beat that test or whatever test people have to make changes. However, the other tendencies that sometimes people break so far outside their comfort zone, they’re all they’re all so excited their self carries on. So and I think COVID as well as a great example of that, you know, so for many people our comfort zones have gotten smaller through coverage because there’s been different levels of restrictions in different parts of the world. But I know for many people then to, to break it, it’s kind of to go outside of the comfort zone. But it’s also outside the self care zone might be to like go into a big shopping shopping center, we would call them I believe we call them shopping malls over in the US. But to go from not leaving the house to going to a shopping mall is probably two more that’s probably outside somebody’s self care zone. So it might be starting by going to a relatively small shop, I’d like a quiet time and kind of building your way up from there. Similarly, if it’s around somebody who wants to leave their job and find something new, and while you’d be on the south care zone to like spend 567 hours working on CVS, go two to three different interviews every week. So then to go outside the comfort zone yet remain inside the self care zone might be allocating 15 minutes a day to updating the CV or 15 minutes a day to looking up a job search and the idea is that this is incremental And then it can change over time. We have had people as well who are artists who have created an album and an album felt like the biggest thing in the world to do so breaking it down into small steps and focusing in on one song first, then another song, and you know, the different parts of the song and bringing it in that way for people who want to write more. A book is massive, because we all know, and, you know, to think about writing a whole entire book when people get caught up in this and I know when traditional I got caught up in this, it felt very overwhelming. And that thing we call writer’s block often is just being completely overwhelmed by how big the task is. So it’s going to be outside the self care zone to just drop everything to try and write this book. But what will be outside the comfort zone yet within the self care zone is to say, I’m going to take 15 minutes or half an hour each day to work on my book. So the idea behind the self care zone is to do something that will absolutely expand your comfort zone, but that it’s small and manageable enough that it feels maintainable and I suppose the Other aspects of the self care zone is to make sure that we’re fueling our own tank because many things in modern world and especially in Koba times are depleting our tanks, our brain is on the red alert system on a trip mode a lot of the time. So we need to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to keep going as well.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 20:19
I think we’re seeing that a lot as well with the restrictions and the the context that we’re living at the moment a lot of people are renegotiating their comfort zones and their self care zones. And what used to be comfortable or used to be a space that they could be comfortable in maybe the home is no workplace and a place where childminding happens and it’s not so comfortable anymore. So a lot of people then need to go further into find that space where they can kind of get some reflection time themselves. And and then self care zones, so things that we used to take for granted. You know, maybe popping for a walk or pumping for coffee. will be something that nurtures you, not necessarily is something that nurtures is at the moment because there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of different rules and things that we need to do. So what we’re noticing in the groups that we run weekly and also with our clients and stuff, people are renegotiating their boundaries and what you’re comfortable with. And that’s bringing up a lot of stress and anxiety as well. So that’s an extra challenge we have to deal with right now.

Leann 21:28
There was a Facebook post I saw yesterday, talking about the need to re establish social contracts that for up until now, we just took for granted things like how safe do you feel? Are you a mask? Where are you willing to social distance? Are you unwilling to just the basic how are we going to quote unquote, hang out, has totally changed. And I think some of the things in your book that you talk about, kind of fail into that unhooking from our internalized messages that we get, and that we may be interpreting other people’s behavior. And it affects our level of feeling safe and feeling that others are concerned and care. So can you talk a little bit about what you’re telling people to do in these groups when they come in and everybody’s amygdalas lit up? And we’re all on high Red Alert? What are some of the basic or top three things that you’ve been telling people to do?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 22:32
So there’s a few different elements to that one of the pieces and within the book we talk about is the power struggle. It’s in part one to recognize, you know, what, we have power to change what we don’t have power to change. And I think that is always an issue for people and it’s amazing how many people will come to us and they’ll say, Well, what we what I really need you to change is my partner, my husband, my wife, my parents, my children, you know, and while we can Do that I’m telling you, we would we would have a very big bank balance, you know, the challenges is that we only have the power to change how we respond to others. We don’t have the power, you know, we don’t choose to think unwanted thoughts about ourselves or others or have unwanted feelings. And I suppose this piece is around Well, how do you want to respond to so you know, what is your value in terms of wearing masks or not? Or in terms of social distancing or not? What? How do you want to assert yourself, you know, like asserting yourself and asserting your needs is something that’s quite challenging for many, many people. And how can we assert our needs in a way that other people are more likely to hear us because if other people feel attacked, they’re likely to drop the shield and anything useful, that we have to say, is likely not going to go in. So that will be one thing that we would say is to kind of recognize the watts with within our power and watts outside of our power. And generally, we struggle more Psychologically when we’re putting a lot of time and effort into trying to change the aspects of our life, outside of our power sets, other people’s thoughts, other people’s actions, you know our own thoughts and feelings, we can influence other people’s actions. And we can influence our own thoughts and emotions based on how we respond, but we don’t choose how these things happen in the first place. So that’s one of the things that we’ve been talking to a lot in, in our groups and in our one to ones. And I think the other part and comes back to what you said you really liked about the power of small as that kind of reassurance that validation that however people are feeling is just the most normal and natural thing in the world. We are in a pandemic, it’s the first time that make experienced in 92 years. It’s very sobering. I remember saying to my 90 year old grandmother, and then I said, I have never experienced anything in my life like this and she said, You haven’t she said, I haven’t. And she’s 90 years old and she worked as a nurse all her life and it was very sober. It was like of course, you know, most of us have not lived through and other kinds of In our lives so our brains hate uncertainty, our brains are constantly striving for certainty as Trish made reference to earlier. So our brains haze what is going on at the moment. And just to be kind to our brains, our brains are trying to protect us, they’re wired for survival. So to be kind, and that we need these chances to self care now more than ever, and we have these different systems in our in our brain are kind of you know, when it’s in prep mode when it’s in kind of drive mode or kind of motivation to do things or soothe mode. And if our mind is constantly in trap motor drive mode, we’re going to run out of steam or batteries are going to run it. So it’s more important now than ever, and I know Trish made mention of this as well earlier, just to really soothe ourselves. So walking suit ourselves. And it might be for some of us, particularly people who are more introverted, it might be like taking some time alone, which can be hard and shared spaces. Look for people who are more extroverted. might be getting creative around how we’re kind of connecting in with with others. And also, are there certain sense or fragrances you know that are certain types of lighting that just help us to feel that sense of safety? Trish, did you want to add in anything else that you feel has been particularly helpful for people we’ve been working with lately?

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 26:18
Yeah, I just want wants to also kind of highlight as well, that that that’s really important, what you’re saying are saying about our emotions are so understandable. I think we’re given messages from a very young age, and we still got bombarded with messages about, but we just don’t think about it or, you know, just don’t just, you know, keep distracted or why are you feeling that way we get really invalidating messages, better emotions and to really hold on with compassion. And that’s, hopefully one of the that’s a really important tone that comes across in our book is that we’re always trying to tap into that suit system in ourselves. To be our own cheerleaders and to be really compassionate and understanding to ourselves, first and foremost, so that when an emotion like anger or anxiety or whatever comes up, you know that it’s, you can beat that with compassion. So you know, it’s okay. You know, it’s totally understandable why you feel like this right now. And to be able to hold ourselves with compassion and kindness, and then to be able to hold others in the same way, I think makes all the difference. And the other thing that I find really helpful, and a lot of the people that I work with respond really well to his small changes and how we talk to ourselves in our own heads when we do something or when we may make a mistake or when something happens. So we can really change your perspective. So kind of the conference sometimes can be very much cherisher be a boss. So I would like to give a public speaking workshop boss, I’m too anxious, I would like to meet somebody and fall in love boss, I’m unlovable. And reading is just one small change of replacing boss with arms. So it’s like, I would like to speak publicly, and I’m anxious, so one doesn’t negate the other. There’s space for you to be anxious and still do what you want to do in line with your values. And replacing but what is just one tiny change that we can make, but it can make all the difference in the amount of possibilities that we see for ourselves. Another small perspective shift that we can take in how we talk to ourselves is and again, coming back to that just getting ourselves a little bit of wiggle room from our thoughts and from our emotions, so that we can make choices in life. values is. So if I say, you know, I’m stuck at home or I’m unhappy, or I’m really worried, it’s just say I’m having a tough time I’m stuck at home. Or I’m choosing to stay at home because I care about others, and I’m protecting the health of my loved ones. So just kind of getting that little bit of wiggle room and how we speak to ourselves is really important, I think.

Leann 29:27
So earlier, you were talking about self care and being able to assert yourself, which is not always really comfortable. And in all of this even being able to talk to yourself, like you suggested, trician say I’m having the thought that I’m stuck at home. In your book, you talk about a way moves in towards moves. Can you talk a little bit about how someone could decide whether something they’re doing or thinking is in a way move or or towards move?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 29:57
Absolutely, and so as much as possible and the power of small rather than labeling our actions as good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative, which just kind of keeps us caught and kind of often like a shame cycle really so because even I think people do that a lot with food, I don’t necessarily us but in our own people say I was really good today. Do you know what I mean? Then I ate a lot of like, vegetables and fruit. I didn’t eat so much talking lettuce, like I was really bad today. And it just, I just feel it right there in my tummy. And I also know that I’ve gotten caught in that loop myself. But when we’re all in that kind of constantly good and bad, it’s like we’re judging ourselves based on our actions. And then if we do something that’s bad, we go into a shame mode that generally leads to us feeling like a worse about ourselves. And we’re more likely to get engaged in the reaction that we don’t want to engage in, in this case, eating chocolate or kind of takeaway foods or what have you. So what can be a really amazing shift for people is rather than looking at our actions as good and bad, right and wrong is to acknowledge Well, we Actions help bring me closer toward my bodies towards the things that matter most to me, and which actions for me further away? The important thing is that like none of us go out and say, Well, I’m going to engage in an action right now that’s going to take me away from my values, you know, we don’t go about it that way. What we usually do is we engage in an action almost automatically, because we want to get away from something that we’re thinking and feeling. So for example, if I notice I’m feeling stressed, and again, this is just think about in the Irish context, I’m not sure if it’s the same in the US but a lot of people are talking about the COVID Stone, which would be like the COVID 15 pounds like a lot of people were noticing they were feeling stressed about COVID and the lack of predictability and noticing that they were having a stronger urge for sugary starchy foods for takeaway foods. Now, most of you asked, they have a value in terms of their health and well being and by the way, Leann, I’ll put my hand up and say I was one of those people who had strong urges for sugary starchy foods. So if anybody’s listening to this and saying, This is Me, oh my gosh, she’s judging me. I promise I am not. And I definitely got cotton up myself, as did many other people. And I’m seeing from your nods here early on, but it was a similar phenomenon to us. It’s not like when we reach for sugary, starchy foods, it’s not like we’re saying I’m gonna go away from my body around my health and well being and taking care of my body. A lot of it is is like I feel anxious, I feel like it’s out of control out of control. I just want to feel like something that makes me feel a little bit less bad, quote unquote, in this moment, so we engage in actions to try and get away from how we feel. And the challenging thing is that these away moves do in fact frame us away from what we want to feel in that moment, they have a short term benefits. However, when we engage in these away actions rigidly and or excessively, they have a detrimental impact in terms of our mental health and in this case, in our physical health as well. So the idea then is to become more conscious of well what actions help bring me closer toward human where I want to be What actions for me further away. And if I engage in actions, try and get away from a certain thought, or emotion or bodily sensation, be kind to myself to notice the motivation underlying that and say, Well, is there something else that I could do that would would help with this feeling of uncertainty? For example, could I do a short mindfulness exercise? Could I reach out to a friend? Could I go for a walk? Is there something else that I could do? That would also acknowledge how I’m thinking and feeling yet also bring me closer toward my bodies towards who and where I want to be. And the idea is that if we tune in on a daily basis to which actions bring us closer toward who and where we want to be in which actions bring us farther away, and we pay attention to this on an ongoing basis, our life just starts to change in this really, really beautiful way. And we still engaged in the away moves. As I said, nobody’s 100% psychologically flexible, however, often we’re doing them less often we’re more aware of them. And I suppose the important thing though, to say is that the star It can be really frustrating because people just realize how many away moves that we engage in and how many actions that we do engage in to try and get away from. From, excuse me, we realize how many actions we engage in to try and get away from something that we don’t want to think and feel, but also bring us away from who and where we want to be. But with time we start to notice just as I’m about to reach for that piece of chocolate, I might take three breaths first, or if I do have that chocolate, rather than shouting all over myself, I shouldn’t be having this chocolate. I’ve chosen to have this chocolate now I’m going to enjoy this better chocolate, you know, and then actually, often after a piece of chocolate, it’s like okay, right, I had that piece of chocolate and now I can do something that brings me toward my body’s wants more. So the I suppose the big idea behind the power of small is that generally, whatever life we’re living now, if we’re not happy with it, that didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t one big thing. Usually that led to us being where we are now. It’s usually a whole host of small actions and then actions that seem are seemingly inconsequential. However, they build up over time, which Just like where we are now is not where we want to be. We can get somewhere that feels more fulfilling, more meaningful, more connection, I’m engaged to just just gently reflecting on these toward and away moves. And I believe that if people just spend like two, three minutes every day, looking at the last 24 hours, what actions were toward and away moves and then thinking ahead over the next 24 hours, because sometimes if we know “Oh, that’s a busier day for me” often busier days or days with this heart higher levels of stressors are more likely to engage in a way Miss actually thinking ahead, how can I scaffold and support myself to engage in much more

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 35:38
This kind of brings us back to the importance of the awareness piece of the psychological flexibility and holding that awareness for ourselves that you know what looks like a toward move one day might be in the way move on a different day or for me, and a way move might be a toward new for us, things are really depends on what’s going on and that importance of awareness. And again, the difficulty in the change sometimes is that when we become aware of and have in the way move, we can beat ourselves up and get caught in the shame cycle. So again, it’s having that compassion and that love for selves that you know. Okay, yeah, I noticed that that’s in the way new if you know that, that was that that was useful to notice, since I’ll watch out for that next time rather than Oh, there you go again, and how could you and you know, what are you like, and you just you’re useless and then getting further into that swamp of self criticism. So you know, we talk about the internal characters that we can hold that are common for people in their heads and they can just really run right on us when we when we engage in the way mood sometimes or if we make a mistake or feel like we fails, so that the compassionate self inquiry Nice everyday easy to check it in. And it’s something that I like to do and I recommend to my clients is to do you know, an inventory at the end of the day in a compassionate way of you know, what is what towards moves that I make today? And what were the away moves. And, you know, how can I just, you know, keep an eye out for them gently the next time or what would have been the tour move in that situation, and over time, then you can start to do that quite automatically. In the beginning, it does take a little bit more attention, it takes a little bit more conscious choice to tune in. But the more you do it and the more you’re checking in with yourself every day, the decisions will become a lot more internalized, a lot more automatic, and you will get to know yourself on your bodies a lot more when you check in in this way on a daily basis. And so it doesn’t always feel as cumbersome or as effortful as at least a dozen people Beginning.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 38:02
When I’m listening to you, Trish, I’m thinking about one of the quotes that we use in the book. There’s a quote at the start of each small chapter and it’s by Pema Chodren, and I’m paraphrasing, so apologies to Pema if I’m getting this kind of wrong, which he says the most fundamental aggression, the most fundamental harm we can ever do to ourselves is not to not have the wisdom and courage to look at ourselves honestly and gently. And I think that’s a fundamental piece underlying the power smallness, to look at ourselves, honestly and gently. It’s easy to look at ourselves dishonestly and gently, or it’s easy to look at us as honest and harshly. However, it’s actually harder. But also Genter, kind of paradoxically, to look at ourselves honestly and gently. And that’s what the power small is all about is how can we allow ourselves and help ourselves to look at ourselves honestly and gently on a daily basis.

Leann 38:58
The power of small was a number One bestseller in Ireland, and I can certainly see it becoming the same in the us next week. So I want to hop a little bit into the process of book writing real quick. So the two of you wrote a book together. That can be either fun or less than fun. What was it for you too?

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 39:19
Yeah, particularly when you’ve got very different processes and ways of marking.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 39:25
And particularly when we were not planning on writing a book, and we got the the offer six months before our wedding, less than six months before our wedding.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 39:34
Yeah, mydad, my dad was really ill and passing away at the time as well. So there was a lot going on contextually. And so lots and lots of juggle. Yeah, and we learned a lot from the process itself.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 39:48
We absolutely learned a lot and I think we got cotton many of the trucks and then we, whenever we look at cotton, the chalk, we will come back to what was the process of what we were writing about and we would often find The answer to what we needed to do and how we needed to connect and relate to one another, and to our writing and what we were writing anyways. But it’s your study I was, it was such a challenging time when your dad was really really unwell and passing at the time and also preparing for our wedding. And it was really, really challenging and having completely different styles. We always say that when we can really acknowledge both our size and the fact that the complete opposite of one another, we can really move mountains. And However, having somebody with a completely opposite style can be really challenging as well. So I feel like we really did learn a lot and we got caught in the kind of big promises and big disappointments trapped ourselves that we talked about in the power of small we felt by taking time off after a wedding. Now having a honeymoon, having a writer’s retreat and having loads of time to relax. We haven’t written that much in the run up to the web. But that was going to be a great idea. And there was about 60,000 words I think that time that was written that all got scrapped and we need to start off again from scratch. And there were times that we thought the book might not get published it was published a year after it was due to be published. And we had a lot of thoughts like did we just you know, miss out on a lot of time precious time on the run off to our wedding and as newlyweds and with Trisha has died being so unwell and passing by focusing on a book that might not actually get out there, and we kept at us and we really needed to on blinker from thoughts around I think thing failures for the fact that it took long.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 41:47
Thank you for speaking for me anyway, a lot of imposter syndrome as well set in, with “who you think you are” and “what have you got to say” and thought was something that needed to be worked on a lot as well.

Leann 42:04
So you still got married, so that’s good. This didn’t ruin that.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 42:10
Yeah, we’re into being married now.

Leann 42:13
So you can keep writing those books, no problem. Something had to really stand out as a value to you though, in writing this book, if you had all those challenges, and you still went forward with it, what do you think was so important to you about writing the book?

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 42:33
Yeah, and as Aisling was talking there, there was so much going on. And sometimes we use the metaphor of people ask us sometimes about what happens if you’ve got a lot going on in your life and you know, you’ve got competing values and you don’t know kind of which way to go or what’s the tour move and we will, one of the metaphors you use, like, it’s kind of like your bodies are like, you know, a dice and sometimes times one side of the dice will be an up button. If you roll it again, there’s another side of the dice and same with bodies. And, you know, we really, of course, our wedding was really important. And my, my, what was going on with my dad was really important. And we also really at the core, I think we we’ve seen in each other on ourselves, incredible shifts and changes in ourselves and our lives in using these skills. And when we bring these skills to other people, we are so heartened by the changes and to see them living a fulfilling life and to working towards things that they never even dreamed possible for them. And we really, really, I think, at the end of the day underneath it all wanted to bring those skills are what we know from experience. We wants to bring them to as many people as possible and that’s kind of what kept us going.

Leann 44:04
That’s very powerful. I mean, you went from joy to heart ache and loss and the loss of your father and the joys and heartache of writing a book alone, never mind a wedding or anything else. So with your two different styles, usually I asked folks coming on the show, are they pantsers are planners, but it sounds more like we’ve got a pantser and a planner and you still came out with a book. How did that work? How did you make it work?

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 44:38
Divine intervention on the way I think!

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 44:43
True Story what we would often joke because I’m the pantser. And

Leann 44:49
you don’t say

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 44:50
yes. And I would often say if I had a euro or $1, even if they’re much the same moment. So if I had a euro or $1, for every time Trish said, What’s the point of that? What’s the point of that?” I thought I was like, I was like, Oh, you know, would be very rich right now.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 45:11
You can laugh about it now.

Leann 45:14
Did you bring you closer together as a couple?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 45:18
I think ultimately it did. And I’ll be really honest, I think there were times where I felt like it was bringing us further apart there. It’s really, really challenging. I would say, what from my experience is really challenging when a boat together. And I suppose when you write something, and when it’s so heartfelt, and it comes from your lived experience in a coastal zone that you really want to share with the world and I really wanted to make a difference in the way that these processes have made a difference to me. And then let’s say if I show to Trish and Trisha saying what’s the point, sometimes then it’s like, oh, what is the point and that imposter syndrome the Trisha was talking about kickstand like I don’t know what I’m talking about. This isn’t the right thing. And then I think it’s probably principles like holding that lightly on blinking and kind of seeing the attrition, Scott a lot of great points here. And she’s not saying that what I wrote is complete nonsense. It’s just that maybe I could be more succinct or maybe I could kind of link this in together or be more aware of overall structure. I could write forever however, structure is not something that comes naturally to me and structure much more comes to Trish.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 46:31
I need the structure before I can write a single word. So I go into analysis paralysis, and I say, I need to see the bigger picture. I need to know what’s in every chapter. I need to know how it’s all laid out before I put a single word on the page.

Leann 46:48
I’m laughing at the recognition of the both of

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 46:51
You got a bit of both of you? Half pantser, half planner?

Leann 46:54
I think I’m a bit I think they call it plantsers. I think it might have Where you – I need an outline, even whether it’s a day job where I need to be very much Trish, or, you know, book coaching, where I’m very much very much ashling where it’s that I need an outline, and I’m gonna get stuck on what that outline should be by overthinking it. Once I have it, then just clear out your calendar. Let me write. Um, so it’s a little bit of both. I don’t think I would get anything done during the day. If I had to plan everything. I certainly wouldn’t accomplish anything in the long run if I didn’t have some sort of a plan.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 47:40
Yeah, I think we learned that that it’s the place in between, and to really honor and respect one another’s strengths and to kind of come together around that.

Leann 47:53
I want to thank both of you greatly for talking to us about your book. Tell me where can people find you on social media, we where do we get this book?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 48:03
And probably the easiest way for people to connect with us where there’s the most information is our book website, which is So that’s one way that they can connect in with us. And we’ve got a power of small Facebook page as well.

And we’re on Twitter. We’re going to be on Twitter board stick around this book. We kind of got like a little lazy on Twitter. That’s my judgment my mind is giving me

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 48:34
Yeah, no, no, people are saying Instagram to us as well are like, Whoa, how do other people keep up?

Leann 48:43
Definitely. Well, I’m glad and I am so excited about your book coming out for the US in Canada on July 28. And I’m sorry, but congratulations on having your book published during the pandemic and the two of you are amazing. So I do want to say, thank you for talking with me. I absolutely loved your book. I cannot wait for other people to find out about it. So again, both of you take care Stay safe, and can’t wait to keep in touch and hear more later.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin 49:15
Thank you so much, Leann. H It’s been really lovely to connect with you today.

Dr. Trish Leonard-Curtin 49:20
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure

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